OP-ED: Higgins sees 'empowering people' as goal of public service
I am Judith Higgins, and I am running on the Democratic ticket for York County Commissioner because I believe in the people of York County.
I am a veteran with 13 years of service in the Air National Guard; a small business owner of eight years; a 20-year business-management adjunct instructor for Penn State; 17-year Eastern York school board director; a wife of 31 years; a proud mother of three fantastic sons, two wonderful daughters-in-law, and three healthy grandkids. I’ve lived in Lower Windsor Township for over 25 years.
My parents were alive during the Great Depression and raised me to understand that, while we had very little, there were people who had even less. It was understood that helping our neighbors, and contributing in a positive way in our community, was core to our family values, and that reflects who I am today.
Helping to care for my older sister — who was born prematurely and, as a result, lost her sight and suffered mental deficiencies — was a part of my upbringing. And, after my father passed away when I was a teenager, I worked while going to high school to help support my family. My personal experiences also inspired me to be involved in the community, going door-to door to help raise money for different charities.
One of the key qualifications I would bring to York as county commissioner is that I am a servant leader. As a military member, there is an understood desire to serve. But even when I left the military, I continued to want to serve. As a school board director and community supporter, I believe that empowering people to be the best that they can be should be the goal of public service.
When we help people thrive, not just survive, we are investing in the success of our community.
For example, I want to ensure opportunities are created for training in all parts of York County for all York countians. Better pay, more investment in the county, upgrading and preserving the beauty of York are all potential outcomes when people do not have to struggle to meet basic needs. To this end, I am already involved with the York County Workforce Development and Salem Square Community Association to make this a reality. If elected, I will continue to champion job preparedness, restoring York’s infrastructure with local craftsman and trades people, and promote York.
As a government analyst for many years, I learned to research issues, to recognize that there are both financial and human implications to every decision that’s made, and that immediate solutions may not result in positive long-range outcomes. When the county nursing home was privatized, I do not believe there was enough consideration to the needs of York County residents, simply a desire to lower costs.
This is highly unfortunate because, based on what I’ve found, there does not appear to be any assurance that quality of care, levels of staffing, and adequacy of availability was part of the discussion. Many of us have elderly parents, some do not have much left of their retirement funds due to the economic crash of the early 2000s, and some were unable to even save money for retirement. What happens to “those people”? I cannot change past decisions, but I want to ensure future ones keep the safety net of society whole.
Another concern is the York County 911 Center, which has been publicly criticized and experienced high turnover, as well as low morale. This service is a matter of public safety and welfare, and is a responsibility of the county commissioners to ensure its availability. However, as a human resources-professional and candidate for this office, I’m mystified that three management studies have been done related to the 911 Center, within two years, at a cost of $285,000 to taxpayers, and issues continue. Is there an agenda that is not being stated?
I want to ensure these individuals are getting the support they need, whether training or mental health services, to keep our first-responders and communities safe. Our residents must be confident that when help is needed, the coordination between 911, the first-responders and appropriate help will be seamless. It will be a priority for me to work to ensure this happens.
I believe the county commissioners need to be more visionary. Maintaining the status quo does not help our county. I want to address, collectively, some of the issues of York County — including flooding, air quality and racism. All three significant topics require we come together as one community, one York County, to open the lines of communication, encourage greater collaboration, and advocate decision-making for the benefit of all of York County. I’m Judith Higgins and I ask for your vote for York County Commissioner May 21.